This week, Ian Hamilton takes us back to another chapter in ‘Uncle’ Chow Tung’s life. Originally created for the Ava Lee book series, Uncle served as Ava’s mentor and partner. Now with this new series, Hamilton continues to fill out this character’s back story with his signature whip smart dialogue and frenetic story pacing.
It’s now the 80s, and Uncle has been the Mountain Master of his branch of triads for a decade. But things aren’t going as smoothly as he would like, with revenue streams drying up he has to figure out a way to make money, even while a rival triad gang is attempting to muscle in on his territory.
When mainland China introduces new economic zones to stimulate their economy, Uncle must decide if he can face parts of his past, and return to the land he fled in ’59. And what starts as a meet and greet about a new factory, begins a defining part of Uncle’s life as he meets new allies, a familiar name gets a mention, and we see how much Hong Kong and China have changed from our last check in with Uncle, versus where we know the country is now.
Hamilton’s writing has an immediacy to it that allows the pages to fly through the fingers, captivating us with characters and moments. I argued, when I read Fate, that Hamilton’s Fleming-esque style of writing was incredibly suited to the time period, but it works no matter when Hamilton sets his adventure, his attention to details, dealing them out brusquely and efficiently conjures similarities between his writing and Fleming’s but there’s a life to these characters that almost transcends the page.
You find yourself wrapped up in the characters themselves, empathising with their situations, and feelings, understanding their motivations, without having to be lead to these things by the writer. His style evokes images that bring the world to life and while, as I write this, I haven’t been to China or Hong Kong, I feel at home there in the pages of these books.
Hamilton has crafted yet another addictive series, that’s two for two, and you can’t help but find yourself engrossed in the pages in the history of Uncle’s character.
There is a pall hanging over the character in the form of Uncle’s former love, and the only worry I have is that somewhere down the line, the reveal that she’s still alive. I’m hoping I’m worrying for naught, and that Uncle continues to mourn the loss of his heart’s desire, because it makes his character relatable, and I love the dialogue he has with himself as he talks to his memory of her.
I love the second half of the book when things really kick into gear, and Uncle comes up against the Chinese government interfering in his business, and I love this glimpse into political realities of the time.
House of Anansi Press proudly unveils Ian Hamilton’s Foresight this week, and I can’t recommend this, and the rest of his books, enough. And now there are so many to enjoy if you’re coming to it fresh.
Now I just have to wait until July for the next Ava Lee adventure.
Pick up these great books by Canadian author, Ian Hamilton and lose yourself in the world he has created.
Foresight is available now, and the Ava Lee and Uncle books will be a welcome addition to your book shelf (or pile next to your bed).